Breach Theatre is an award-winning devised theatre company. They bring a brand new documentary musical to the New Diorama, After The Act focuses on Section 28, an Act of Parliament, passed by Margaret Thatcher’s Tory government, which forbade the ‘promotion’ of homosexuality within schools. Ellice Stevens and Billy Barrett’s show is verbatim, taken from interviews with students, activists, and teachers who were affected by the law. Twenty years after the Act’s repeal, the effects are still felt within the LGBTQIA+ community today. With a recent rapid rise in public discrimination against members of the community, particularly against the trans community, this show has never felt more necessary.

Credit: Alex Brenner

The minimal set is elevated with projections from Zakk Hein, which guide the production, signifying different locations and supporting the show’s documentary style. Hein’s projections subtitle the names of the characters speaking, and include the black and white fuzzy VHS screen, which is wonderfully reminiscent of the period the show covers, from 1988-2003.

The cast of four dressed in colour block outfits, are vibrant, standing out against the dark set. This truly is an ensemble piece, and each member of the cast proves excellent. One particular stand-out moment is Ellice Stevens’ hysterical performance as The Iron Lady, allowing her to showcase her abilities as a natural comedian, bouncing off the audience and improvising seamlessly. 

Music plays throughout the piece, both in the background and then of course, as this is a musical – in musical numbers. The styles of music incorporated here, again signify the period, there’s a mixture of rock, pop, and Brit pop, amongst others. The songs contain some fun lyrics and are catchy, but they aren’t particularly complex and most of them unfortunately aren’t memorable. I would argue that perhaps the show is strong enough as a play with music soundtracking the performance, the absence of musical numbers would not hinder the show in any way.

Act One is rather lengthy, with the pacing faltering at times, meaning the production occasionally saunters along. The much snappier, shorter Act Two is a welcome tonic and a great change of tone and pace.

Credit: Alex Brenner

After The Act has an exceptionally important message, and a diverse group of people telling it, the casting is impeccable and authentic, allowing us to hear from people affected by this law, knowing the urgency with which the lines are delivered is genuine. 

There are some moments of pure brilliance, EM Williams poignantly delivers a monologue about conversion therapy whilst skipping, which proved so intense it took my breath away and brought tears to my eyes. The use of humour and satire also works brilliantly, allowing the message to be received but the show to feel lighthearted on occasion. There is a huge amount of potential here, and I have no doubt this show will evolve, going from strength to strength, which I can’t wait to witness. In its current form, there is more work to be done, the choreography could be finessed, the music fine-tuned, and the storyline streamlined, as the non-chronological order can confuse the audience. But there’s no doubt, this is a story that needs to be told, and these are the people to do it.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

{🎟 AD – PR invite – Tickets were gifted in exchange for an honest review}

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